Author Topic: Barrel Aging a Tripel- the memoirs  (Read 1043 times)

Offline sbalovich

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 6
  • Brewin' in Alaska
    • View Profile
Barrel Aging a Tripel- the memoirs
« on: February 12, 2017, 12:46:48 AM »
First a little background, I've been homebrewing for 16 years and am a bit obsessive/compulsive with it.  SWMBO is also a beer lover and tolerates the obsession because I can usually come close to beers we encounter on our travels.  Aside from our two house beers on tap we like to have world styles rotating on our 6 taps.

About two years ago SWMBO came back from a biz trip in San Diego and said "I had this amazing beer and I took a photo of the menu because I want you to try to make it..."  Challenge accepted (as usual).  Okay time to research this baby... a Tripel that has been barrel aged and then blended back (Allagash Curieux).  Crap.  Not your average simple study the OG/FG, grain bill, yeast possibilities and water adjustment type of research.  This one requires oaking...

I've oaked one beer (chips soaked in bourbon) and it was so so.  Not my expertise.  So I sort of shelved it.  Flash forward to 2016 Xmas and I received a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 12 year bourbon... AND a 5 gallon freshly emptied barrel from Port Chilkoot Distillery up in Haines, AK (http://www.portchilkootdistillery.com/)  The note on the barrel read... "Now will you make it?"

How could I not try!  I figured I'd post my progress here for others to suggest ideas and perhaps even follow.  My plan is to blend back something close to 50/50 after about a month in the barrel. 

Here's where I'm at... Brewed this:

OG = 1.085 (beersmith anticipated)
OG = 1.080 (actual, not sure what happened)
FG = 1.010 (estimated and actual)
ABV = 10.4% (anticipated)
ABV = 9.2% (actual)
IBU = 35.4 (adjusted to actuals)
SRM = 5.2

14 lbs Avangard German Pilsner Malt
3 lbs Briess Vienna malt
1 lb Flaked Barley
2 oz Acidulated Malt (depends on your water, Mash PH = 5.3)
1 lb Simplicity Candi Sugar 1L clear
.75 oz Sterling Hop 9.4%AA @ FWH for 21 IBU's
1.5 0z Sterling Hop 9.4%AA @ 10 mins for 13.5 IBU's
1 Whirfloc Tablet @ 15 mins
2.5L starter of Belgian Ardennes (Wyeast 3522) decanted

Brewed this up, sat in primary for 4 weeks and cold crashed for a week.  I just popped this into the bourbon barrel today (2/11/17).  The barrel smelled AMAZING when I removed the bung.  Obviously... WHISKY.  It seemed to be still moist inside so I did zero preparation.  I simply filled the barrel with the relatively clear Tripel.  I saved the cake and I'll be brewing up this exact recipe next week (Old Chub tribute by Oskar Blues this week).

The reason I'm putting this out here is that whisky barrels are becoming easier for homebrewers to get their hands on as distilleries are popping up about half as fast as small brew pubs these days.  I haven't seen too many posts about actually barrel aging (many helpful ones on oaking with chips/spirals/cubes) so I thought I'd start this.  I'll update as things go along.  My plan is to go 6 weeks (per Allagash) but I'll be popping a thief into the barrel at about the three week mark to see where it's at.  Again, I'm looking for a 50/50 blend (Allagash doesn't do that... they blend accordingly to taste at 6 weeks in the barrel) as I have to fit this into two cornies. 

Updates coming!
S~ 

Beer in a barrel!

"There are many ways to brew successfully, so don't be fooled into thinking there is only one way to do it.  The goal isn't to learn to brew like me; It's to use my experiences as an example so you can develop your own personal style on your system"-  Gordon Strong

Offline Philbrew

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 867
    • View Profile
Re: Barrel Aging a Tripel- the memoirs
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2017, 04:00:52 AM »
I can't comment on your barrel thing...but
First a little background, I've been homebrewing for 16 years and am a bit obsessive/compulsive with it.

(Obsessive/compulsive is THE definition of home-brewer. )

 SWMBO is also a beer lover and tolerates the obsession

 (I am truly jealous, want to trade SWMBOs?)  :)

« Last Edit: February 12, 2017, 04:20:57 AM by Philbrew »
Many of us would be on a strict liquid diet if it weren't for pretzels.

Offline majorvices

  • Global Moderator
  • I must live here
  • *****
  • Posts: 9685
  • Polka. If its too loud you're too young.
    • View Profile
    • Yellowhammer Brewing Company
Re: Barrel Aging a Tripel- the memoirs
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2017, 01:45:10 PM »
Nice write up and welcome to the forum! I actually have a series of Tripels I age on cherries and then age in wine barrels. One thing I would suggest is not to age that beer for too long. Those 8 gallon whiskey barrels (assuming that is what you are using) will pick up a lot of flavor in a very, very short time. You may find you have all the flavor you need in 2 weeks or less. One of the things I can't stand about barrel aged beers, and it is far too prevalent, is beers that obviously have been aged too long in the barrel. When the beer loses it's nuances and only takes on barrel and oxidized characters I find it highly objectionable. So, longer is definitely not better! Especially when you consider those smaller barrels have a lot more surface area as opposed to 53 gallon barrels.

I prefer to save  bourbon barrels for more "bold" beers such as barley wines and imperial stouts and maybe quads. Personally I feel wine barrels work better for beers that are more "nuanced" such as tripel, saison, etc. But that is just my personal taste.

Looking forward to hearing your results!

Offline yso191

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1806
  • Yakima, WA
    • View Profile
Re: Barrel Aging a Tripel- the memoirs
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2017, 04:13:33 PM »
Yes, welcome.  And PAPPY VAN WINKLE?!!  I've been trying for years to lay my hands on a bottle.  I don't live in the right place apparently...gotta move to Alaska.

I love barrel aged beers.  I have one of Woodinville Whiskey Co.'s barrels and will likely buy another soon.  Good luck!
Steve
All Hands Brewing
BJCP #D1667

Offline sbalovich

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 6
  • Brewin' in Alaska
    • View Profile
Re: Barrel Aging a Tripel- the memoirs
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2017, 07:55:21 PM »
@Philbrew
Alas yes you are correct... us that have this homebrew bug are seriously OCD and I was stating the obvious for us here on the forum.  I am very lucky that SWMBO is tolerant of the obsession and gives me honest feedback... She pulls no punches with feedback trust me!  Being as lucky as I am I'm not trading any time soon.  ;-)

@majorvices
Thank you for that info!  Exactly what I'm eager to receive!  I'll start poking at it and tasting at about the two week point.  I'm going to blend back with a fresh non-oaked batch of the same brew but I really don't have too much lee-way as I need to blend 50/50.  If it's over done then even a 50/50 blend may not bring it back in line to a Curieux'ish tribute.  I suppose I don't REALLY need to blend 50/50 but I'd like to fill two two cornies with the blend.  Pretty sure my barrel is 5 gallons as when I emptied the primary of the Tripel into the barrel it was right at the bung opening... takeaway there is that there's even more surface area!  Like I mentioned... I'll certainly be checking earlier than planned.  I better get that second blending batch brewed quick so it has time to get ready as my time line will likely change. 

@yso191
Yep... THE Pappy was under the tree this year.  I've since seen a few bottles in the store here in Juneau but they were twice the price my wife paid for mine down in the lower 48.  This was, however, the first time I've EVER seen them in the store here.  Had I not had one I'd probably have cringingly bought one as this is a "white whale" of a bourbon for me!  I was going to buy a barrel from Woodinville eventually but shipping to Alaska was cost prohibitive.  Luckily Haines, AK is a small plane ride from Juneau... cost SWMBO only about $25 to put it on a puddle jumper!  I'll be patronizing them more for their whisky AND their barrels I can see!

Thanks all for the welcomes!  I've been lurking for years... Didn't really have anything to add since this was where I went for advice!  Figured I'd document this process since I haven't seen too much out there!

S~
« Last Edit: February 12, 2017, 07:59:56 PM by sbalovich »
"There are many ways to brew successfully, so don't be fooled into thinking there is only one way to do it.  The goal isn't to learn to brew like me; It's to use my experiences as an example so you can develop your own personal style on your system"-  Gordon Strong

Offline reverseapachemaster

  • Official Poobah of No Life.
  • *
  • Posts: 3208
    • View Profile
    • Brain Sparging on Brewing
Re: Barrel Aging a Tripel- the memoirs
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2017, 05:31:01 PM »
I prefer to save  bourbon barrels for more "bold" beers such as barley wines and imperial stouts and maybe quads. Personally I feel wine barrels work better for beers that are more "nuanced" such as tripel, saison, etc. But that is just my personal taste.

Agree entirely. I have had very few lighter beers aged in whiskey barrels that were better coming out of the barrel than going in. I'm a huge fan of red wine barrel aged pale beers especially.

I'll start poking at it and tasting at about the two week point.  I'm going to blend back with a fresh non-oaked batch of the same brew but I really don't have too much lee-way as I need to blend 50/50.  If it's over done then even a 50/50 blend may not bring it back in line to a Curieux'ish tribute.  I suppose I don't REALLY need to blend 50/50 but I'd like to fill two two cornies with the blend.  Pretty sure my barrel is 5 gallons as when I emptied the primary of the Tripel into the barrel it was right at the bung opening... takeaway there is that there's even more surface area!  Like I mentioned... I'll certainly be checking earlier than planned.  I better get that second blending batch brewed quick so it has time to get ready as my time line will likely change. 

I can appreciate the desire to target volume but you'll be happier with the end result if you blend to taste. Better to have eight or nine gallons you really love than ten gallons you like.

Also think about what you will do with the barrel after this first batch comes out. You don't want to leave the barrel sitting around empty because it will start to dry out and become an infection risk. You either want another beer ready to go in as the first comes out or be prepared to fill it with a holding solution that will keep it relatively sanitary inside.
Heck yeah I blog about homebrewing: Brain Sparging on Brewing

Offline sbalovich

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 6
  • Brewin' in Alaska
    • View Profile
Re: Barrel Aging a Tripel- the memoirs
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2017, 08:58:21 PM »
Agree entirely. I have had very few lighter beers aged in whiskey barrels that were better coming out of the barrel than going in. I'm a huge fan of red wine barrel aged pale beers especially.

I agree with this too... the one beer I oaked in the past was a darker high ABV and FG beer which took the bourbon/oak okay but I wasn't overly impressed.  Probably due to it being the learning process more than anything.  However, this particular attempt is to come close to something that is out there currently (Allagash Curieux).  Normally I wouldn't probably oak something as light bodied as this though so I agree 100%. 

I can appreciate the desire to target volume but you'll be happier with the end result if you blend to taste. Better to have eight or nine gallons you really love than ten gallons you like.

Also think about what you will do with the barrel after this first batch comes out. You don't want to leave the barrel sitting around empty because it will start to dry out and become an infection risk. You either want another beer ready to go in as the first comes out or be prepared to fill it with a holding solution that will keep it relatively sanitary inside.

Yah I'm starting to come around to the reality that I will more than likely be blending to taste for the exact reason you state... I want a beer that I really REALLY dig... not just like.  I've got Mitch Steele's British IPA sitting in a secondary at the moment waiting for the barrel when it's emptied.  I have a vial of WLP654 (brett C) waiting to go into the barrel with it.  Hopefully there isn't too much bourbon left after the first round but I'm sure there will be some.  After that... SWMBO gets the barrel for a planter on the deck.  ;-)

Appreciate the comments and info very much!

S~
"There are many ways to brew successfully, so don't be fooled into thinking there is only one way to do it.  The goal isn't to learn to brew like me; It's to use my experiences as an example so you can develop your own personal style on your system"-  Gordon Strong

Offline brewsumore

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 623
  • Spokane, WA
    • View Profile
Re: Barrel Aging a Tripel- the memoirs
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2017, 06:06:59 PM »
Ditto to what majorvices said.  The surface to liquid ratio is MUCH higher inside a 5-gal barrel as compared to a 60 gal barrel (or larger) as used by Allagash, and so you'll get an equivalent oak presence in a fraction of the time.  Yep, taste will be your best barometer.

And blending to taste will make you an old world master of the craft!

Thanks for sharing - you are definitely off to the races.  Curieux is a great beer.  I'm considering trying a version, except would just dial back and use oak pieces in secondary and not blend later. 

Offline sbalovich

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 6
  • Brewin' in Alaska
    • View Profile
Re: Barrel Aging a Tripel- the memoirs
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2017, 04:16:41 PM »
Ditto to what majorvices said.  The surface to liquid ratio is MUCH higher inside a 5-gal barrel as compared to a 60 gal barrel (or larger) as used by Allagash, and so you'll get an equivalent oak presence in a fraction of the time.  Yep, taste will be your best barometer.

And blending to taste will make you an old world master of the craft!

Thanks for sharing - you are definitely off to the races.  Curieux is a great beer.  I'm considering trying a version, except would just dial back and use oak pieces in secondary and not blend later.

Yes with the advice I've received here and corroborating advice from other sources I'm definitely going to be checking the barrel at the two week mark (If I can wait that long!) rather than the planned 4 week mark.  New plan and sound advice.  I really don't want oxidized and "hot" over done beer to work with and with what I've learned I can certainly get to that point much quicker than Allagash can with my 5 gallon barrel!

It's actually the blending to taste process that I'm getting excited for at this point!  Nearly all of us after a few years of doing this can crank out some damn tasty beers the traditional way but pushing yourself and like you stated "And blending to taste will make you an old world master of the craft!" is new, exciting and pushing me out of my comfort zone for sure and brings a bit of fresh excitement to it for me! 

S~
"There are many ways to brew successfully, so don't be fooled into thinking there is only one way to do it.  The goal isn't to learn to brew like me; It's to use my experiences as an example so you can develop your own personal style on your system"-  Gordon Strong

Offline sbalovich

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 6
  • Brewin' in Alaska
    • View Profile
Re: Barrel Aging a Tripel- the memoirs
« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2017, 04:55:18 PM »
*ONE WEEK UPDATE*

Grabbed about a drams worth and sampled this weekend.  The aroma was definitely of Bourbon.  I was getting slight oak flavors on the back end but not distinct.  There was a small hint of cinnamon which was fantastic and was NOT there when the beer went in.  Overall a tad hot on the Bourbon but I'm sure that will mellow over time.  I'm hoping one more week will impart the components of the oak a tad more and perhaps I'll pull it then.  The color was a smidge darker but hey... it's a charred oak barrel and I suppose that is expected. To be honest I'm quite surprised that one week has affected the base beer as much as it has but I was warned/advised that would happen!  Overall I was really pleased with it... I could easily keg this as is and be happy but I'm forging forward with the blending plan. 

S~
"There are many ways to brew successfully, so don't be fooled into thinking there is only one way to do it.  The goal isn't to learn to brew like me; It's to use my experiences as an example so you can develop your own personal style on your system"-  Gordon Strong

Offline jjflash

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 155
  • New Mexico
    • View Profile
Re: Barrel Aging a Tripel- the memoirs
« Reply #10 on: February 20, 2017, 07:49:05 PM »
Just my two cents on barrel aging.

When someone states the beer should sit in the barrel ____ weeks, be wary of the advice.
There are more factors here that affect the final flavor.
As noted, the size of the barrel makes a significant contribution to flavors.
What is not discussed, and perhaps even more important is temperature.
Beer aged in a barrel at ambient room temperature will be significantly different than a beer that is aged in a temperature and humidity controlled enviroment.  A beer in a barrel at 80 degrees and 20% humidity tastes quite different to me that 60 degrees at 60% humidity.  To me the lower temperature range is preferable - the barrel does not seem to overwhelm the beer.  Longer barrel time and lower temperature works well for my barrel program.
---JJ---

I don't know half of you half as well as I should, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
- Bilbo Baggins

Offline majorvices

  • Global Moderator
  • I must live here
  • *****
  • Posts: 9685
  • Polka. If its too loud you're too young.
    • View Profile
    • Yellowhammer Brewing Company
Re: Barrel Aging a Tripel- the memoirs
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2017, 12:02:07 PM »
Just my two cents on barrel aging.

When someone states the beer should sit in the barrel ____ weeks, be wary of the advice.
There are more factors here that affect the final flavor.
As noted, the size of the barrel makes a significant contribution to flavors.
What is not discussed, and perhaps even more important is temperature.
Beer aged in a barrel at ambient room temperature will be significantly different than a beer that is aged in a temperature and humidity controlled enviroment.  A beer in a barrel at 80 degrees and 20% humidity tastes quite different to me that 60 degrees at 60% humidity.  To me the lower temperature range is preferable - the barrel does not seem to overwhelm the beer.  Longer barrel time and lower temperature works well for my barrel program.

Absolutely correct! I try to do the bulk of my barrel aging in the cooler months. I can not stand the taste of barrel aged beer that has at in a 100 degree warehouse for the length of the summer. Lots of breweries are doing this. It works well of whiskey. NOT for beer!

Offline sbalovich

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 6
  • Brewin' in Alaska
    • View Profile
Re: Barrel Aging a Tripel- the memoirs
« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2017, 05:12:55 PM »
This is definitely something I was aware of going into this project from my research.  Everything @jjflash mentioned about temperature and humidity seems to be major factors in everything I've read so far.  Much of what I've read leads to the fact that the barometric pressure changes pull the fluid into the wood and push it back out via expansion and contraction which certainly provides the flavor compounds (most good and some not good which is why we don't go too far with aging beer).  This time of year it's pretty cold in Alaska as you might imagine but my garage sits ambient between 65-68 depending on exactly how cold it is outside.  Right now it's 65 and 52% humidity and the barometer has moved a lot over the last 10 days.  I'm going to check things again here in a couple days just to keep my finger on the pulse of that beer... and the fact that of course I'm a bit OCD about it.   ;)

Thanks again for the valuable input!  So much fodder out there and assumptions to wade through... Some of those assumptions of course are mine (and were wrong).  The input is truly appreciated!

S~
"There are many ways to brew successfully, so don't be fooled into thinking there is only one way to do it.  The goal isn't to learn to brew like me; It's to use my experiences as an example so you can develop your own personal style on your system"-  Gordon Strong